KT Opinion: Vaccines for all to prevent variants of concern

Dubai - While the West struggles with vaccine hesitancy, the UAE and GCC countries have accepted vaccines with open arms for a return to normal activity

By Staff Writer

Published: Sun 24 Oct 2021, 11:21 PM

Fatalities and cases may be down but the pandemic is not over yet. Globally cases have crossed 243 million with deaths exceeding 4.9 million.

The coronavirus continues to mutate and virologists and epidemiologists are tracking its spread as more vaccines reach people’s arms, though only 2.5 per cent of Africa’s population have been covered in the continent.

Vaccine inequity remains a concern and the World Health Organisation has warned that the sooner we vaccinate people with two doses, the better the chances of preventing the emergence of a more deadly or transmissible variant would be.

However, developed and richer nations are going ahead with a third shot which, while protecting their populations or the more vulnerable, do not prevent the rise of the mutants. Cases in Europe particularly in the UK are a new high and a new mutation of the Delta variant called the Delta Plus is now seen in 6 per cent of the country’s population.

Cause for alarm? Yes and no. Scientists say the range of vaccines deployed against the coronavirus work against the variant whose mutations, Y145H and A222H, have been seen in other versions of the pathogen since the beginning of the pandemic.

But it could be spreading more rapidly if the jump in UK cases is any indication. Delta Plus, or AY.4.2, is still a variant of interest and has not moved to the more dangerous ‘variant of concern’ definition.

This gives the government time to ramp up vaccination efforts. Delta, the last major variant of concern, now the most dominant of coronavirus variants, was detected a year ago and has swept through populations and reduced the efficacy of vaccines.

Countries like the UAE, however, have moved ahead of the rest of the world with a swift vaccination campaign that has now covered close to 90 per cent of the population with two doses.

The country is now a bio bubble, a hub of activity with tourism, trade and sports activity picking up. While the West struggles with vaccine hesitancy, the UAE and the GCC countries have accepted vaccines with open arm for this return to normal activity.

However, it is still important to wear masks, maintain social distancing and practice hygiene.

Clean hands and avoiding crowds should be the rule even if the pandemic is consigned to history or even endemic. More importantly, this crisis has produced the best that humanity can offer to save lives in record time – vaccines.

Bio-research has thrown up answers and what we have is a new era of cooperation that must not be frittered away at the altar of  convenience when it comes to vaccines.

The last in line in the queue should come first; every individual counts in this vaccine drive that should be borderless and open to all.

Human behaviour could determine how soon this pandemic will end. Only when we distribute vaccines to the have-nots would we have a safer world.

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